From Sea Fishers: Their Treasures and Toilers
by Marcel Herubel
T Fisher Unwin, 1912


The English press has given my book a very flattering , and I am glad to seize an opportunity of impressing my gratitude ; especially would I thank Mr. Stephen Reynolds, who stated, in the Daily News, his encouraging opinion that an English translation was called for. Finally I have to thank Mr. Fisher Unwin, who has taken the initiative in offering this edition to the English public.

It is true that I wrote for my compatriots; wishing to advise them as to the development of ocean fisheries, to put them on guard against their mistakes, and to do my best to prepare a better future for them. But the model which I have held before their eyes, the country I advise them to imitate, is Great Britain. I will even say that it a is enough to understand the history and the economy of the English fisheries in order to formulate the general rules of the industry. Such is the truth I have tried to establish contained in a few lines; and in this light I would put before our friends across the Channel a book which was in fact written for them as well as for my countrymen.

The English have always had the faculty of uniting tradition and progress; with them the things of yesterday and the things of to-day are not in perpetual conflict. Along the quays of Hull, Grimsby, and North Shields are crowded the fine and powerful steam trawlers that ply to the distant fishing-grounds, while Lowestoft harbour is full of graceful sailing vessels. The former are devoted to ocean fishery on the grand scale; they work for the people of the Black Country, while the latter net the soles and " prime fish " of the North Sea for the tables of the wealthy. Aberdeen possesses not only a fleet of magnificent steam drifters, but sailing vessels as well. There is room for vessels of all classes in a harmonious whole.

The means are varied and the methods flexible. English shipowners have grasped the fact that eternal fertility cannot be expected of the same fishing-grounds. They have left the beaten paths in search of new pastures, and have found them. They ply the otter-trawl on the banks of Iceland; they trawl the almost virgin depths of the White Sea (The Russian Government, by claiming a nine-mile territorial limit, has this year claimed the right to close the White Sea. There are, however, other excellent fishing-grounds in the Arctic Ocean. -TRANS); they send their trawlers along the West Coast of Africa; in short, by continually extending their maritime domain they are able to give exhausted grounds the time necessary to their recovery ; this bank recovers itself while that is newly exploited; then the latter is left in repose and the former resumed.

This method of alternate exploitation, which I have expounded in the following pages, constitutes the best means of ensuring a regular and constant supply. This is its least advantage; for, thanks to the elasticity of this supply, the method provokes the equipment of an ever-increasing number of vessels, which bring to port ever-increasing quantities of fish. The total catch of the fishermen of the British Isles amounts to 958,000 tons, which represents more than £10,000,000. Each fisherman is responsible for nearly ten tons of fish a year, representing a value of £105, and his profits amount nearly to £6. These are excellent results, but they will soon be surpassed.

Excellent at sea, the English system is still more admirable on shore. The United Kingdom is equipped with great fishery ports, capacious harbours, whose only object and function is fishery. These ports are well situated and splendidly equipped, and are connected up with the rest of the country by means of numerous railways. The various operations are easily and rapidly effected. At Grimsby enormous shipments of fish—amounting to a thousand tons and more—are unloaded from a hundred trawlers as they lie moored in the Fish Dock, are sold by auction, loaded in three or four hundred trucks or vans, and despatched in all directions, all in the course of a few hours. In France the municipal octroi duties are imposed upon fish as though it were a luxury which could well afford to pay. Fish is loaded with taxes; but in England this valuable form of food finds the gates of every city open to it, or, rather, there are no gates. The English have long understood that the men of the seaboard are not foreigners, but of the same nation as the men of the cities, the mines, and the fields.

Not far from the market sheds are the ice factories and the warehouses of the fish merchants and the fish-curers, and the factories where fish meal or fish manure or fish glue is made or fish-oil prepared; beyond these are the repairing shops, the ship-chandlers', the sailmakers', and ropemakers' warehouses. The life of these ports is active and concentrated. It is disciplined and orderly, thanks to the goodwill of all, and is supervised by a local
administration which is usually wise, competent, and liberal. The fishery companies and trawler companies are provided with ample capital; for in England fishery is an industry, not a speculative investment.

This industry is based not only on the long experience of English fishermen, on economic tradition and unsleeping initiative, but also on the scientific organisation of the English fisheries. You have not been afraid to spend money on useful experiments, and have studied the biology of the principal marketable species, the question of the migration and the transplantation of fish, the value of reservations, and the efficiency of different forms of gear and tackle. You have also undertaken purely theoretical inquiries into the salinity and temperature of the seas, the nature of the ocean floor, &c.
Such is a synthesis of British fishery and of fishery in general. I have expounded it at length in the following chapters, and it has been a pleasant task to a sincere admirer of Great Britain.


[It is perhaps hardly needful to explain that the above details refer to our great fishing-centres only; the small fisherman in the small commercial port or watering-place is often far from prosperous, being at the mercy of a small close ring of buyers and an indifferent freight service. There are signs here and there of a tendency to co-operate with a view to obtaining petrol engines, which would enlarge the available radius of the vessels.—(TRANs.)]